Jockeying for jobs: Market outlook fluctuates


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When Catherine Swick, a 2013 Mount Mary University graduate in merchandise management and business management, entered the job market, she never expected to find her dream job working with a clothing wholesaler that specializes in undergarments. But after doing extensive research on local companies and her industry, she landed her dream job and is back at Mount Mary to earn her graduate degree in business administration.

Some might say she is one of the lucky ones, but her fortune is a combination of in-depth research, hard work and a keen awareness of the opportunities available to her in her industry.

“To be honest, I was quite intimidated with searching, applying and interviewing for jobs right after college,” Swick said. “However, I did extensive research on companies and my industry, which helped me be well-prepared and more confident with myself. All of that led me to landing the job I have today.”

Job Market Outlook in Perspective

The Job Market Outlook is a projection of the growth in numbers of jobs that will be available in a given field in the near future and the salaries those positions will earn.

Knowing the job market outlook can help students tailor their experience and skills to positions with opportunities for growth. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published every year by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, can give students general information about the job market for specific careers while they are still in college and making career decisions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website reported that the labor force overall is not projected to grow as fast in the next 10 years as it did in the 10 years prior to 2012. Though that might be scary for those entering the job market, it may not be all bad news. There are certain fields that will grow and other fields that will need to replace retirees with new hires.

A 2013 study by Met Life Mature Market Institute said that baby boomers have already begun retiring, and many plan to retire earlier than expected.

Kathy Reid Walker, career counselor for the Academic and Career Development Offices at Mount Mary, said that though she would pay more attention to job market outlook if she were searching for a career, she does not hear many students talk about the job market outlook as a factor in their choices.

“Income is one of the factors, but it’s not everything,” Reid Walker said. “You have to take into account your values, your interests, your skills. For some people, flexibility is important. You should think about what type of lifestyle you want to have.”

Chioma Ugochukwu, dean of the School of Social Sciences, Business and Education, noted that parents are typically more concerned with job market outlook than students.

“It is not necessarily a bad thing that the students are not as concerned only because I think sometimes if you focus too much on the job outlook, you might miss out on your own passion,” Ugochukwu said.

Many students enter college with a particular major in mind, but change their minds once they discover something they are passionate about.

“Students figure out that their passions and abilities are elsewhere,” said Kathleen Dougherty, dean of the School of Humanities. “I hope that students are choosing something that they love and that they are good at.”

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Sources for Job Market Information

Though finding out information about potential careers might seem overwhelming, there are simple sources available, besides the Occupational Outlook Handbook, to learn job market and salary information for various careers in Wisconsin.

Reid Walker urges students to visit; students can also visit her office to get a password to use the Career Locker (formerly Wiscareers).

Many departments at Mount Mary also devote seminars or capstone courses to career exploration or preparation. Some instructors also post job market information on bulletin boards outside of their offices.

Be the Best Job Candidate 

Although having an understanding of the job market can help you target industries that are projected to grow, it is also important to know how to market yourself and convince potential employers that you have the skills necessary to be successful in any field.

Armstrong said that marketability comes from how you present yourself overall, including the soft skills, such as showing up for the interview on time, dressing better than the person who is interviewing you, good etiquette, good communication and being a good employee.

“The way you present yourself is almost as influential as what you are presenting,” Armstrong said. “It is the whole package.”

Paul Kilt, CEO of Elite Human Capital Group, a staffing agency in Brookfield, said the biggest complaint that he hears from employers is that the communication skills of recent graduates are far inferior to those of the previous generation.

“There is so much social media, they are afraid to pick up the phone and just talk to people,” Kilt said.

Both Kilt and Dougherty encouraged students to get experience through on-campus jobs or internships.

“A student should take advantage of every opportunity to improve her professional skills – the internships, seminars and workshops,” Doughtery said. “We have four students graduating with communications majors who were hired on where they have their internships.”

Ugochukwu explained that students think that if they do too much that it might detract from their education.

“We have the data to show that the students who are more engaged do better academically and are more likely to get more jobs and better jobs,” Ugochukwu said.

Students who take their job search seriously should monitor their Internet presence. Kilt said they have chosen not to hire people because of what they have found on social media, including personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Choosing your career path can be challenging. Madeline Wray, a Mount Mary 2013 grad who double majored in merchandise management and business administration, is also working at Jockey International, in a different division than Swick. Wray said there were surprises on her journey, so she advised grads to keep an open mind.

“A year ago, I never would have guessed that I would be working in men’s underwear at Jockey International,” Wray said. “However, as you start your career and take on new and different opportunities, you realize that you can become passionate with just about anything, including men’s underwear!”

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